Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Stormont's lack of urgency is a worry

Appearances are important in politics and in that respect the First and Deputy First Ministers created a bad impression in the Assembly yesterday.

Mr Robinson and Mr O'Dowd were absent from the chamber during a debate on the new programme for government at Stormont. They were not the only ministers to give the debate a miss. Indeed, it was left to Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson to field angry complaints about the lack of the vital and urgently needed programme.

It may well be that ministers had other pressing engagements - and no one is suggesting that they do not think the programme for government is important - but what was the viewing public to think? Tens of thousands of people in the province are facing fuel poverty; there are dire economic warnings every day, and businesses here are urging some government action to stimulate the economy, but as yet there is no cohesive plan emerging from the power-sharing administration to tackle any of these problems.

And there are other concerns as highlighted recently by this newspaper - the continuing chaos in education along with a crumbling schools estate; lack of a joined-up approach to health; no sign of the long promised reform of public administration nor any indication that security is being fully resourced to meet the continued dissident threats. At a time when the public is feeling the pinch, when jobs are in short supply and when fuel costs are continuing to soar, there seems to be a lack of urgency at Stormont.

Of course, it is a fair point to say that it is better to get the government's approach right rather than get it speedily, but at the moment we have neither. There is no programme for government and sufficient time to draft one has passed. The challenges facing the administration are obvious.

What is not clear is how the politicians will respond. And their absence from the debating chamber doesn't fill the public with confidence.

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